Ask anybody about their journey to veganism and you’ll likely get a response stating the difficulty of giving up dairy cheese. Why is dairy cheese such a pain to give up? Well, probably because of just how addictive the stuff is. One component found in dairy cheese is casein: a substance that some claim to be as addictive as crack cocaine.

However, it’s not just the addictive nature of dairy cheese that makes it so difficult to get over. Vegan cheese has built a bad reputation over the years, mostly for good reason. When you’ve spent a lifetime consuming animal-based cheese, the change to processed plant based alternatives is tough, particularly when non-dairy cheese often over-compensates on flavour resulting in a feet-like pong.

Then there is the issue of it melting. “Have you heard about the fire at the vegan cheese factory? Everything melted apart from the cheese.” Cue hysterical laughter. The quality of vegan cheese is improving though. If you’d rather steer clear of the processed stuff and have a go at creating your own, so you know exactly what is going into it, then we’ve got everything you need to know to do so with ease. If there is one saving grace about shunning dairy cheese, it is that the longer you go without it, the more susceptible your taste buds seem to become to enjoying alternatives.

 

vegan cheese

 

Texture
First of all, you need to start thinking about texture. Do you want your cheese to be soft and spreadable or hard and better for slicing for a sandwich? Perhaps, you’re hoping to create a cheese that can be grated onto hearty Italian pasta dishes or a stringier, meltier version for pizza. The beauty of making your own cheese is that you can keep experimenting to get the texture you love.

 

Equipment
The most important piece of equipment you need to invest in is a good quality food processor. However, there are other useful things you may not already have in the kitchen. For soft cheeses, having a high quality, fine cheesecloth can be invaluable for removing excess water as the cheese sets. Then there’s the need to shape the cheese by using a cheese mould. This is particularly advantageous when producing firmer cheese. If you don’t want to buy an actual cheese mould, you could use a muffin tin instead.

 

fine cheesecloth

 

It’s all nuts
Nuts are creamy, nutritious and a substantial part of any meal which often results in them becoming the star of the vegan cheese show. The most commonly made non-dairy cheese tends to be cashew-based, but you can use almonds, macadamia, pine nuts or a variety of others to create plant based cheese. Alternatively, if you’ve got a nut allergy try tofu or chickpea based cheese instead. Various other ingredients can be worthwhile to stock up on if you’re looking to become a pro at homemade cheese. Modified tapioca starch is one important ingredient as it can help to thicken up your cheese. Some recipes require the use of pectin for gelling, whereas others use agar powder. Agar is derived from algae and due to its gelling properties is important when getting cheese to solidify, but must be heated over 80°C so that it can gel whilst cooling.

chashew nut cheese

 

Flavour
The not-so-secret way of getting a flavour that more closely resembles traditional cheese is using nutritional yeast. Packed with B12 you should try altering the amount you use depending on how much you love your ‘nooch’. Other than this, many of your usual staples for adding tasty flavour can be used here too. Think: garlic, onions, mustard, lemon juice, and other herbs and spices.

 

No expectations
The key to appreciating dairy-free cheese is to forget everything you think you know about cheese. If you begin by trying to re-create something you used to love, you’re instantly setting it up to fail. See non-dairy cheese as its own delicious addition to your diet, not as a direct replacement for things you may have once eaten. Once you manage that you can truly fall in love with cheese all over again.

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